What if You’re Diagnosed?

Talk to your doctor

There are treatment options available for nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease. You and your doctor will work together to decide if treatment is right for you. You may be prescribed a treatment regimen or you may be referred to a specialist who has more experience treating people with NTM lung disease.

It’s important to educate yourself and ask your doctor questions about what to expect after diagnosis.

Ask about your NTM lung disease diagnosis—Download this discussion guide to help start a conversation about your NTM diagnosis and treatment options with your doctor.

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Discussion Guide

The Different Types of NTM

There are many different types, or species, of NTM that can cause an infection. Depending on the species you have, your doctor may prescribe you different medicines.

The most common species of NTM is called MAC, or Mycobacterium avium complex. Sometimes, doctors will call an NTM infection "MAC" or "MAC lung disease" because it’s the species most often identified in patients.

Eight out of 10 NTM infections in the US are caused by MAC.

8 out of 10 NTM infections is caused by MAC

Some other types of NTM include:

  • M abscessus [ab-SESS-ess]
  • M kansasii [can-zays-EE-eye]
  • M malmoense [MAL-mow-ense]
  • M szulgai [SOOL-guy]
  • M xenopi [ZEN-no-pie]

What to Expect


If you do start treatment for NTM lung disease, sticking to your treatment regimen is extremely important. That’s because when you stay on treatment, there is a better chance you could get rid of NTM.

Multidrug therapy

You may be put on the guideline-recommended multidrug therapy. This means that you will take more than 1 medication at the same time. These medicines work together to attack the NTM bacteria in different ways. Using more than 1 treatment also helps prevent the bacteria from becoming resistant to one antibiotic. Specialists treating NTM lung disease usually treat with 3 or more drugs.

Depending on how severe your NTM lung disease is, you may be required to take your medicine once a day or 3 times a week. Like other treatments out there, you may experience side effects. Visiting your doctor regularly will help him or her monitor how you are responding to treatment and help manage side effects.

12 more months

You may stay on treatment until your symptoms get better and you have fully cleared all NTM bacteria. Once you get rid of the bacteria, you may need to stay on treatment for 12 more months. This is to make sure the NTM infection does not come back.

Treatment can be long. However, when you stick to treatment and work with your doctor, there is a better chance you could get rid of NTM.

Airway clearance

Airway clearance

NTM lung disease can make your body create excess mucus in your airways. Using certain airway clearance devices in addition to taking your medicine can help you clear the mucus from your lungs.

Talk to your doctor about ways to manage mucus clearance. In addition, the resource below has examples of different techniques you can use:


Reducing exposure

While NTM is in the environment, you can follow these steps to reduce exposure to NTM bacteria:

  • Raise hot water heater temperatures to 130°F
  • Use well water, rather than piped-utility supply, if possible
  • Avoid long exposure to shower aerosols (shorter showers)
  • Disinfect showerhead by submerging in household bleach for 30 minutes
  • Use showerhead with large holes to reduce mist formation
  • Drain hot water heater frequently to remove sediment
  • If you have a water filter, follow manufacturers’ instructions for changing it
  • Avoid continual use of humidifiers without cleaning them
  • Have good bathroom exhaust
  • For drinking and cooking, boiling (ie, 212°F) for 10 minutes kills NTM
  • Wear a mask, when appropriate, to avoid dust inhalation
  • Moisten garden and potting soils

Read more about reducing exposure to NTM:

Healthy Lifestyle Changes

When you’re living with a lung condition, it’s especially important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. That’s because exercise and diet can affect how your body works. Remember, you can always talk to your doctor if you have any questions about your lung health.

Whether you’re traveling far away or just seeing family or friends nearby, here are a few tips to help you manage your lung condition.

Learn how you can manage your lung health, even when you’re on the go


Light activity, such as walking, has many health benefits:
Makes daily activities easier
Provides long-term health benefits
Talk to your doctor to see if starting an exercise routine is right for you.
No smoking
Quit smoking
Smoking is also a leading cause of lung problems and lung cancer. Quitting may not be easy, but it can improve your health. Your doctor can help you develop a plan to stop smoking.
Balanced diet
Maintain a well-balanced diet
Your diet has an effect on how your body works. Having a well-balanced diet can help by minimizing inflammation.

Nutrition Tips

One of the symptoms of NTM lung disease is weight loss.

Eating right

It’s important to maintain a healthy weight and eat a well-balanced diet. Eating right may help you feel better. Remember, always talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet.

Stick to foods that can help minimize inflammation.

There are some foods that help more than others 
because of their high level of key vitamins and minerals.

Citrus fruits, like oranges or grapefruit
Sweet peppers
Brussels sprouts
Sweet potatoes
Other foods
Other Foods
Cereal grains
Seafood, including fish and shellfish
Vitamin C
Vitamin E
Vitamin A
Fatty acids

Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new vitamins.

Keep up your appetite

  • Eat five to six small meals a day and snack whenever you are hungry
  • When you’re hungry, have a high-protein snack like nuts
  • Calorie-boost a meal with sauces, cheese, or butter
  • Remember to use whole milk. Avoid low-fat or skim milk products
  • Don’t fill up on fluids
  • Want a drink? Try milkshakes and juices
  • Make it spicy if your sense of taste has faded
  • Take a walk. A 20-minute walk an hour before eating helps keep up your hunger
  • Keep a food journal. Knowing what you’re eating is key

This nutrition guide is only a suggestion. You can talk to your doctor or a dietitian if you'd like help putting together a meal plan, or if you have any questions or concerns.

Tips for living with NTM lung disease

NTM Support

You probably have a lot of questions. You should know that you’re not alone.

For helpful resources, support, and information about NTM lung disease

To talk to other people who have NTM disease, visit

It’s important to know as much as you can about NTM lung disease and how it affects your body. Here is another resource where you can learn more: